Wellman Inc. has won a go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use its multilayer recycled-content polyester sheet in direct food contact packaging. The thermoformable sheet is one of the first that uses conventionally recycled PET to be approved for food-contact packaging by FDA.
Kate Hickey, a spokeswoman for Wellman's Ripon, Wis.-based extrusion division, said FDA's nonobjection letter allows the coextruded sheet to be used for such purposes as poultry trays, salad trays, fresh fruit and vegetable trays, instant and regular coffee and tea containers, packaging for cereals with no surface fat content, and airline catering trays.
Although Wellman is not the first company to make coextruded sheet with recycled content, John Beard, Wellman Extrusion general manager, said it is the first company to gain the FDA nonobjection for these specific food-related uses.
In 1994, the company won nonobjection status for use of 100 percent post-consumer PET packaging for washable fruits and vegetables. According to the company, the new sheet has near-virgin clarity and impact strength.
``This is a very significant advance for us,'' Hickey said. ``It broadens the number of uses for recycled PET, and gives thermoformers an environmentally friendly alternative to the use of virgin PET.''
The Wellman sheet, which comes in 10-40-mil thicknesses, includes inner and outer layers of at least 0.001 inch-thick virgin PET, sandwiching the recycled content core layer, enabling the processor to achieve 75 percent or more recycled content. The company's Ripon plant has capacity to produce 10 million pounds of the sheet per year.
All the sheet will be produced for Wellman at the Wellman Extrusion plant in Ripon, but Hickey was unable to say how much of the product will be produced initially.
Wellman Extrusion is a division of Wellman Inc., of Shrewsbury, N.J., the world's largest recycler of PET.